What Do We Want for Each Other?

A life insurance question leads to a conversation about life.

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By Denise Logeland • Photos by Stephanie Lynn Photography

What started with an unexpected phone call turned into “a good conversation for us philosophically,” Carolyn Varland says.

She and her husband, Ken, live in New Ulm, Minnesota. At ages 68 and 71, respectively, they’re moving into a new stage of their lives, with more time for their grandchildren and travel. Ken retired four years ago as a wildlife biologist with Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources. Carolyn plans to leave her job soon as a registered nurse at the local hospital. Both have life insurance, some through their jobs and some through Thrivent, plus long-term care insurance they purchased through Thrivent about 15 years ago.

That’s a solid strategy in place already. But when Kaitlin Bohlander, a Thrivent Financial Guidance Team representative, gave them a call last February, they realized they had more to think about. Bohlander was calling about a term life insurance contract for Carolyn that would expire in a few years.

“We had options,” Carolyn remembers Bohlander saying. “So we said, ‘We’re open, go ahead and tell us about them.’”

That was then, this is now

“What’s interesting about life insurance is when you buy it initially, you might have different ideas about the need for it,” Ken says. Then “as you get older, your thought process changes.”

“I know what our plan was,” Carolyn says. We wanted [term insurance] to take us through the time that we were helping to launch our kids. And I think we thought that when [the contract] retired in 2025, we would probably have very different needs. And we were right, we do.”

In their first phone call, Bohlander listened as the Varlands explained their plans for Carolyn’s retirement and their longer-term goals. Then she offered them a few ideas to consider. It all came down to one core question, Carolyn says: “What do we want life insurance to do for us at this point?”

It prompted a deeper, more philosophical discussion between Ken and Carolyn over the next few weeks. “By the time we got to the second call [with Bohlander], we had kind of formulated our answer,” she says.

What do we want for each other?

The Varlands are quick to say they’re not dwelling on the end of their lives. But over the years, they’ve experienced the loss of their parents and have seen how costly medical and nursing home care can be. They wonder sometimes if care expenses late in life could drain their resources.

Knowing that “one of us will probably go and leave the other person,” Carolyn says, they talked about what kind of a life they want for each other.

It helped to be specific, Ken says. “We talked about where you would live, for example.” Would each of them want to stay in the house they have now, or would they want to downsize? And what were the financial needs that would go with either choice?

They realized they didn’t need all the coverage the term life insurance contract currently gave them, but they wanted to keep some of it. As a result, they decided they wouldn’t let the term contract expire. They also wouldn’t extend the term of the contract because they didn’t want to guess how long they would need the coverage. They wanted more certainty than that, so they chose a third option Bohlander had explained to them.

“The Varlands decided to take advantage of Carolyn’s term contract’s conversion privilege, which would allow her to convert part of that to a permanent contract without needing to provide evidence of insurability for the converted amount.* That makes it a really easy process for them,” Bohlander says. Their other life insurance contracts will stay in place. Eventually, another insurance contract that Carolyn has might expire, but if it does, Bohlander adds, “a supplemental contract can provide an opportunity to build cash value, depending on the contract they choose and provided premiums continue to be paid.”

Bohlander gave them an integrated picture of their costs and benefits over time and across contracts, which made it “probably one of the easiest life insurance conversations we’ve ever had,” Carolyn says. “Now we can focus on other things, like where we want to travel.”

Denise Logeland is a freelance writer in Minnesota

Ask About Conversion Privileges

The conversion privilege on a term insurance contract “is somewhat time sensitive,” says Kaitlin Bohlander, a Thrivent Financial Guidance Team representative. “You have until the end of the term or until certain age limits (which vary with the contract) to make that change.”

By converting when they did, the Varlands benefit in a couple ways, she says. “They’re locking in their premiums based on age; generally, they’re lower in cost the younger you are. Also, they feel good about the changes they made, and they probably won’t have to make a lot of major changes later on.”


Ready to Take the Next Steps?

You can contact the Thrivent Financial Guidance Team from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central, Monday to Friday.

Phone: (888) 834-7428
Email: Guidance@thrivent.com
(a representative will contact you)